Evolutionary and developmental analysis reveals KANK genes were co-opted for vertebrate vascular development

Sci Rep. 2016 Jun 13;6:27816. doi: 10.1038/srep27816.


Gene co-option, usually after gene duplication, in the evolution of development is found to contribute to vertebrate morphological innovations, including the endothelium-based vascular system. Recently, a zebrafish kank gene was found expressed in the vascular vessel primordium, suggesting KANK genes are a component of the developmental tool kit for the vertebrate vascular system. However, how the KANK gene family is involved in vascular vessel development during evolution remains largely unknown. First, we analyzed the molecular evolution of the KANK genes in metazoan, and found that KANK1, KANK2, KANK3 and KANK4 emerged in the lineage of vertebrate, consistent with the two rounds of vertebrate whole-genome duplications (WGD). Moreover, KANK genes were further duplicated in teleosts through the bony-fish specific WGD, while only kank1 and kank4 duplicates were retained in some of the examined fish species. We also found all zebrafish kank genes, except kank1b, are primarily expressed during embryonic vascular development. Compared to invertebrate KANK gene expression in the central nervous system, the vascular expression of zebrafish kank genes suggested KANK genes were co-opted for vertebrate vascular development. Given the cellular roles of KANK genes, our results suggest that this co-option may facilitate the evolutionary origin of vertebrate vascular vessels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Blood Vessels / growth & development
  • Blood Vessels / metabolism
  • Chromosomes / genetics
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / metabolism
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Duplication
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Phylogeny
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / classification
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics*
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Zebrafish / genetics*
  • Zebrafish / growth & development
  • Zebrafish Proteins / classification
  • Zebrafish Proteins / genetics*
  • Zebrafish Proteins / metabolism


  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • Zebrafish Proteins